Quebec coroner recommends more resources for domestic violence victims following 2019 murder-suicide in Montreal

“Work to be done,” says Andrée Kronströma, a Quebec coroner who released a report calling on the province to provide more resources for victims of intimate partner violence. Swidda Rassy reports.

By The Canadian Press

The Coroner’s Office released an inquest report Tuesday into the deaths of a Montreal family.

Nabil Yssaad killed his wife, Dahia Khellaf, and their two children, Adam and Aksil, in December 2019 in the borough of Pointe-aux-Trembles in Montreal.

Coroner Andrée Kronström is recommending more resources for victims, including a directory of specialized resources.

In a press release published Tuesday, the Coroner’s Office states that “the coroner outlined certain risk factors at the origin of this violent incident and was able to draw conclusions regarding what led to the familicide, as well as the suicide of the perpetrator, following 11 days of hearings and 60 testimonies, including from numerous organizations and ministries working to study and prevent domestic violence.”

The public hearings and the integration of an action plan and integrated government strategy led Kronström to note that “the efforts made in recent years to reduce the incidence of these deaths” while emphasizing that “there is still more to be done.”

Her 19 recommendations are structured around the following six actions: acting in emergency situations, estimating a trajectory for perpetrators of domestic violence, investing in a specialized section of the Montreal police (SPVM), adding an investigative section to police practice in terms of domestic violence, completing the deployment of specialized courts and raising awareness of domestic violence and coercive control from a young age.

She writes in the report that “we must iron out unequal relations in intimate relationships, starting in childhood,” and that “all players in the health network, justice, public safety and community organization networks, as well as family members, must be better equipped to detect violence and risky situations, including the dangerousness associated with separation, especially in the presence of children.”

According to Kronström, we must “adopt a prevention strategy that takes into account the links between suicide and domestic violence,” and pay “particular attention to the phenomenon of familicide/suicide by continuing to document it, but also detect its warning signs.”

Coroner Andrée Kronström
Coroner Andrée Kronström presents her finding at a press conference in Montreal, June 12 2024. (Martin Daigle, CityNews Image)

She claims that “significant progress has been made to protect victims of domestic violence since 2019” and that there is “an unprecedented mobilization of many players.”

She says the Rebuilding Trust report, with its 190 recommendations, was “the turning point for profound transformation.”

“The trajectory of Ms. Khellaf, Mr. Yssaad and their children is echoed in several findings from this report. The results of the recommendations made during this investigation are positive and can improve the lives of victims and their children. However, there is still a long way to go,” said Kronström.

To improve the situation, Kronström insists that “we must work together to equip the victims, children and perpetrators of domestic violence” and that the many “tools available must be made known to the population, particularly in Montreal.”

She adds that “to get to the root of the problem, young people and new arrivals must be aware of domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence and associated with coercive control.”

A long journey

In July 2022, Chief Coroner Pascale Descary ordered a public inquiry into the murders of Khellaf and her two sons, aged four and two, as well as the suicide of 46-year-old Yssaad.

The announcement followed the filing of four damning reports by coroner Alain Manseau on the familicide.

The initial incident unfolded when Yssaad threw himself out a sixth-floor window of a Lanaudière-area hospital on Dec. 10, 2019.

Police officers went to his home to give the news to his next of kin when they discovered the three bodies lying in Khellaf’s bed.

They had all been strangled in their sleep with an electric cable.

The couple was united by an arranged marriage during a trip Khellaf had taken to her native country, Algeria, in 2012.

She returned to Canada alone and sponsored her husband, who arrived in 2014.

According to reports, the relationship deteriorated as soon as he arrived.

In August 2018, Khellaf went to her local police station to report that he had threatened her.

There would later be arrests, indictments, releases, breaches of conditions and constant lies by Yssaad, who openly mocked the conditions imposed on him, even in front of the judges.

On July 20, 2022, the Coroner’s Office announced that “new facts have been brought to the attention of the Coroner’s Office, which led the chief coroner to deem it useful to hear witnesses in order to establish the circumstances surrounding the four deaths as accurately as possible.”

The mandate was entrusted to Kronström and public hearings were held in the fall of 2023.

Women need more specialized services

Linda Basque works at Info-Femmes.

The community organization was created for women and offers free services to improve living conditions, combat violence and fight against all forms of discrimination and prejudice.

However, Basque said she was not surprised by the results of the report.

“There were plenty of red flags that were not either taken seriously or were not known as red flags to the different professionals that were involved,” she explained. “And very often, women who are victims of domestic violence will not recognize the fact that that’s what they’re going through.”

Basque added that the report lacked information about services that are currently offered to help women in these situations.

“What might have been lacking in the report was maybe that there are existing services already. For example, in the report, they mentioned the importance of having services for offenders such as housing. So, that when there is a case of domestic violence instead of the women, which is what happens now, having to leave often with the children having to leave the family home, the offenders would leave the home and have housing. There is already a group that offers that, except that they’re largely underfunded.”

She concluded that although there are many helpful measures in effect, more needs to be done to educate people about the difference between mental health and domestic violence.

“In this case, the victim kept looking for mental health services for the offender and it’s not a case of mental health. It’s a case of domestic violence, completely different things. So yes, we need to better understand.

If you need help, reach out. Call SOS violence conjugal 24/7 at 1-800-363-9010.

If you fear you may become violent towards your partner, call PRO-GAM for an appointment at 514-270-8462.

–This report by La Presse Canadienne was translated by CityNews

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